Beyond Belfast

The Old Rectory Guest House
Posted on 10th, April, 2017

Recently at the Old Rectory, we’ve noticed a growing trend which involves guests spending longer with us and not only exploring Belfast but using it as their base, while they explore beyond the city itself. Whilst Belfast clearly has lots to offer, Northern Ireland too has a vast array of attractions, lying within drivable distances, which appeal to a wide audience. From the ancient Giant’s Causeway to the atmospheric Dark Hedges; the roadway which was recently named, by the Architectural Digest, as one of the most beautiful streets in the world, keeping good company with the likes of the Champs Elysees in Paris and La Boca neighbourhood  in Buenos Aires. So here’s a taster of some of what’s on offer within just over an hour of Belfast.


The Giant’s causeway –  1 hr, 30 mins

The causeway needs little introduction, as Northern Ireland’s only UNESCO World Heritage site, it attracted over 850,000 visitors last year. The Antrim coast’s world famous basalt columns are a truly unique tourist attraction and the renowned Causeway coastal route, hailed as one of the greatest drives on earth, is a day trip in itself. It passes through the lovely fishing village of Ballycastle (stop at Morton’s for fish & chips!), via the Carrick-a-rede rope bridge and onwards to Dunluce Castle, ending in the historical city of Derry. Also along this route, is Ballintoy Harbour, which Game of Throne fans will know as the ‘Iron Islands’ and the aforementioned Dark Hedges, AKA ‘The King’s Road’, the haunting backdrop for Ayra Starks escape.


Bushmills Distillery –  1 hr, 30 mins

If you have time after your causeway visit why not drive 10 minutes down the road to the Old Bushmills Distillery, which is the oldest working distillery in Ireland. Situated on the banks of the Bush River, this distillery has been hand crafting small batches of world famous Irish whiskey for over 400 years. Tours and tastings run every day and if you are part of a large group you can book in advance.


Hilden Brewery – 15 mins

If whiskey’s not your thing, then maybe beer is? Situated in Lisburn, just 15 minutes from Belfast, is Ireland’s oldest independent brewery. Tours of this family-run microbrewery are available and are extremely informative. If you fancy tasting a Belfast Blonde or a Headless Dog, leave the car at home and take the train right to the brewery, alighting at Hilden train station. Alternatively, if you want to work up a thirst, you can cycle along the Lagan towpath, all the way to the brewery, then perhaps take the train home 😉 Hilden brewery also runs one of Northern Ireland’s longest running festivals, which takes place during the last weekend of August, showcasing local musical talent, gourmet food and of course their very own craft beers!



Hillsborough Castle – 25 mins

Just down the road from Hilden is the beautiful Hillsborough Castle, located in the pretty village of Hillsborough. The late Georgian mansion was built in the 1770s and today is the official residence of the Royal Family, when they are in Northern Ireland. Tours of both the castle and the gardens are available and you may even get to sit on the very seat where the Queen likes to take her tea!


Mount Stewart – 40 mins

If you’re interested in history and architecture then Mount Stewart, a 19th century neo-classical house, situated on the shores of Strangford Lough, is definitely worth a visit. Its celebrated gardens were recently voted in the top ten gardens in the world, and they are truly lovely. From the Shamrock garden, with its intricate topiary representing various Irish myths, to the Rhododendron lined paths leading around the seven acre lake, it really is a work of art.


Ulster Folk and Transport Museum – 25 mins

This museum is regarded as being one of the best of its kind in the world, set over 170 acres of lovely countryside, it tells the story of life in early 20th century Ulster. History is brought to life, through the use of actual and replica homes, shops, workplaces, churches and schools. Costumed visitor guides will demonstrate by-gone skills and bring history to life. The Transport museum holds one of Europe’s most comprehensive transport collections, from steam locomotives to an actual DeLorean, plus visitors can explore the Titanic exhibition, which has over 500 original artefacts on display.


So all that’s left to do is book your trip to Belfast and start exploring!


*All driving times are calculated from the Old Rectory.